Indian engineer, three Afghans kidnapped in Afghanistan
KABUL, Nov 20 (AFP): An Indian engineer was kidnapped with two Afghan police guards and a driver in southwestern Afghanistan, government officials said Sunday, as Taliban militants said they had snatched the men.
The four were captured late Saturday while they were driving on an "unsafe road" in volatile Nimroz province, a district chief in neighbouring Farah province told AFP.
"They were kidnapped by unknown people. We have launched a search operation to find them," Khash Road district chief Mohammed Hashim Noorzai said.
"They were driving on an unsafe road which they shouldn't have. They did not take the normal road," he said.
The Indian national had been working on a road construction project in Nimroz that was funded by the Indian government, Noorzai said.
The interior ministry said the four were kidnapped in Nimroz's Poshta-e-Hassan area by unknown men. "A search operation and investigations have been launched by police," ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai told AFP.
A purported spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, told AFP members of the group had kidnapped the engineer and three guards in Khash Road district.
Purported Taliban spokesmen often say the group has carried out attacks and other incidents in Afghanistan but their claims are not always accurate.
Their claim to have kidnapped a British engineer and his Afghan interpreter in Farah province on August 31 was however widely believed to be credible. The men's bodies were found a few days later.
Two Indians working on a road construction project in southern Zabul province were kidnapped in December 2003 and released two weeks later unharmed.
The Taliban had said they had taken the men but authorities said later the kidnappers were locals who had no links to the hardliners.
Security in southwestern Afghanistan has largely deteriorated since the Taliban government was removed in a US-led campaign in late 2001 and afterwards launched an insurgency against the new US-backed administration.
The area is a hotbed of anti-government militants, most of them allied to the Taliban, and criminal groups involved in smuggling, mainly of Afghanistan's large crop of illicit opium.